OK hip boots are on and I'm ready to walk if not run into the swamp. First my steps and equipment are what I've found work with the type of steel used in my shop. I'll start with something I think most will/should agree with. Sharpening is a three step process, grinding to a sharp edge, honing to improve the the edge, and finally polishing to smooth out the scratches left by the first two steps.
While I will grind using a rotary grinder when the edge needs major work most of the time I grind with "stones". While I've used different makes of diamond "stones", synthetic water stones, and sand paper on something flat, my most used are either a course or medium Norton India stone. The India stone is reasonably fast stays flat and is cheap. The medium India's scratches are easy to address with a honing stone and the India gives a burr you can feel but is easy to remove on your hone.
My hone depends on the type of cutter. If I'm sharpening western steel most of the time I will hone on a Pike "Lilly White" Washita. With Japanese chisels my honing stone will usually be a Tsushima Nagura. One of the reasons to change to JNats when sharpening Japanese chisels is to preserve the definition between the hagane (hard steel) and jigane (soft steel), that preservation is mostly out of tradition but shows a well sharpened chisel with a perfectly flat bevel.
One of the advantages or maybe disadvantages of oil stones over water stones is in the burr. With oil stones even at the level of polishing you can feel the burr, with water stones, I think mostly because of the "slurry" developed in use, not so much. With water stones knowing when the edge is sharp depends much more on sight vs. oil stones sight and feel.
The last step is polishing. For western steel I have a very special Black Arkansas (not all Arkansas stones are equal). Polishing on a Arkansas stone is a two step process that also may use a strop. First you need to polish to remove the scratches left by the honing stone then "chase the burr" to remove the wire edge. A strop can aid in final polishing.
For Japanese chisels I polish on one of several JNats depending on the level of polish needed or wanted. Whichever stone that is used it is the final step because a strop will obscure the definition between the hagane and jigane.
Because I do not use some of the more difficult steels to sharpen such as A2 I will normally sharpen to a flat bevel. The exception is when I re-grind using the Tormek but that bevel will soon return to flat. I'm not a fan of "micro" bevels.
A side note, synthetic water stones can be very fast cutting and give a much "shinier" surface. That shinny surface can be deceiving and not be as polished as a duller looking surface left by a Natural stone.
Notice no mention of free hand vs. jigs because in the end it makes no never mind. I free hand because I find it faster and easier but, as always, YMMV.